NOT the least, if the last, of capital sins is sloth, and it is very

properly placed; for who ever saw the sluggard or victim of this

passion anywhere but after all others, last!

Sloth, of course, is a horror of difficulty, an aversion for labor,

pain and effort, which must be traced to a great love of one's comfort

and ease. Either the lazy fellow does nothing at all--and this is

sloth; or he abstains fr
m doing what he should do while otherwise

busily occupied--and this too, is sloth; or he does it poorly,

negligently, half-heartedly--and this again is sloth. Nature imposes

upon us the law of labor. He who shirks in whole or in part is


Here, in the moral realm, we refer properly to the difficulty we find

in the service of God, in fulfiling our obligations as Christians and

Catholics, in avoiding evil and doing good; in a word, to the discharge

of our spiritual duties. But then all human obligations have a

spiritual side, by the fact of their being obligations. Thus, labor is

not, like attendance at mass, a spiritual necessity; but to provide for

those who are dependent upon us is a moral obligation and to shirk it

would be a sin of sloth.

Not that it is necessary, if we would avoid sin, to hate repose

naturally and experience no difficulty or repugnance in working out our

soul's salvation. Sloth is inbred in our nature. There is no one but

would rather avoid than meet difficulties. The service of God is

laborious and painful. The kingdom of God suffers violence. It has

always been true since the time of our ancestor Adam, that vice is

easy, and virtue difficult; that the flesh is weak, and repugnance to

effort, natural because of the burden of the flesh. So that, in this

general case, sloth is an obstacle to overcome rather than a fault of

the will. We may abhor exertion, feel the laziest of mortals; if we

effect our purpose in spite of all that, we can do no sin.

Sometimes sloth takes on an acute form known as aridity or barrenness

in all things that pertain to God. The most virtuous souls are not

always exempt from this. It is a dislike, a distaste that amounts

almost to a disgust for prayer especially, a repugnance that threatens

to overwhelm the soul. That is simply an absence of sensible fervor, a

state of affliction and probation that is as pleasing to God as it is

painful to us. After all where would the merit be in the service of

God, if there were no difficulty?

The type of the spiritually indolent is that fixture known as the

half-baked Catholic--some people call him "a poor stick"--who is too

lazy to meet his obligations with his Maker. He says no prayers,

because he can't; he lies abed Sunday mornings and lets the others go

to mass--he is too tired and needs rest; the effort necessary to prepare

for and to go to confession is quite beyond him. In fine, religion is

altogether too exacting, requires too much of a man.

And, as if to remove all doubt as to the purely spiritual character of

this inactivity, our friend can be seen, without a complaint,

struggling every day to earn the dollar. He will not grumble about

rising at five to go fishing or cycling. He will, after his hard day's

work, sit till twelve at the theatre or dance till two in the morning.

He will spend his energy in any direction save in that which leads to


Others expect virtue to be as easy as it is beautiful. Religion should

conduce to one's comfort. They like incense, but not the smell of

brimstone. They would remain forever content on Tabor, but the dark

frown of Calvary is insupportable. Beautiful churches, artistic music,

eloquent preaching on interesting topics, that is their idea of

religion; that is what they intend religion--their religion--shall be,

and they proceed to cut out whatever jars their finer feelings. This is

fashionable, but it is not Christian: to do anything for God--if it is

easy; and if it is hard,--well, God does not expect so much of us.

You will see at a glance that this sort of a thing is fatal to the

sense of God in the soul; it has for its first, direct and immediate

effect to weaken little by little the faith until it finally kills it

altogether. Sloth is a microbe. It creeps into the soul, sucks in its

substance and causes a spiritual consumption. This is neither an acute

nor a violent malady, but it consumes the patient, dries him up, wears

him out, till life goes out like a lamp without oil.